Governor Abbott endorses Trump, school choice: This Week in Texas Politics

A lot of politicians spent the holiday break sharing Thanksgiving recipes, but a lot of politics also got served up this week. 

Governor Abbott was on the border endorsing former President Trump, and also state lawmakers who support his school choice idea; which can’t clear the State House.

Attorney General Ken Paxton who is also on a mission targeting Republicans who voted to impeach him, lost a big fight to stay out of the witness chair in the whistleblower lawsuit against him.    

FOX 7 Austin’s chief political reporter Rudy Koski and our panel of analysts take a look at This Week in Texas Politics. 

The full transcript is below and you can see the full discussion on the FOX7 Austin YouTube page)


RUDY KOSKI: This is a holiday week, but Texas politics certainly didn't take the holiday off. Let's get our headlines from our panel. And we'll begin first with Connie Sweeney with the Highlander. Connie, what's your headline for the week?  

CONNIE SWINNEY: Parade of Politicians Gobble Up Time and Money.  

RUDY KOSKI: And Brian Smith with St Edward's University. Brian, what's your headline for the week?  

BRIAN SMITH: In Session 4, vouchers stall out like an old Buick.  

RUDY KOSKI: State lawmakers, they got the week off somewhat from the special session. A lot of them used this break to prepare for a possible last-ditch effort to reboot school choice next week or to just bring this Special Session 4 to a merciful end. Brian, I'm surprised that a compromise really didn't make it in 4. Are you surprised?  

BRIAN SMITH: I'm not surprised because even with the expanded education agenda, there wasn't enough sweeteners to get opponents to flip. The Republicans could never overcome the Democratic talking point of it being welfare for the rich and the rural areas didn't see an upside.  

RUDY KOSKI: Now, Governor Greg Abbott has not officially thrown in the towel on Special Session 4, but he has started work on his promise to punish House Republicans who don't support school choice. One of those Republicans, Andrew Murr from the Hill Country this week said he won't seek reelection. That's opening the door for a pro-Paxton candidate who is in the race. Connie, what are you hearing about that? And are there any signs that maybe Democrats see a door opening there?  

CONNIE SWINNEY: Well, Rudy, any kind of talk of a potential Democratic contender in the deep red region of the state, you kind of just hear the sound of crickets. However, there are a couple of GOP primary hopefuls that have thrown their hat into the race. First of all, Wesley Virdell, who is from Brady. And also there is another candidate who has said he would like to seek the GOP nomination in Andrew Murr’s position, and that is Hatch Smith Jr. And he's from Llano County. So, it'll be an interesting race, I think possibly contentious during the GOP primaries. But no matter what, there's going to be new leadership in that House District 53 position. 

RUDY KOSKI: Now, while Governor Abbott was planning to "Primary" some of those state party members of his own, he was also on the border this week endorsing the reelection bid of former President Donald Trump. Brian, you know, is that endorsement more of a sign of him trying to mend fences with his hard right base? 

BRIAN SMITH: Yeah. This is a sign of unity in a Session marked by disunity. All the other top Texas Republicans have endorsed Trump. So it's a very safe bet.

RUDY KOSKI:  Trump does have some very strong polling numbers here in the state of Texas. But Connie, are there any signs that that the other GOP contenders, maybe Haley or DeSantis, have any support out there in the whole country?

CONNIE SWINNEY: When you look at the optics of what's happening over on the border right now and you have a governor and a presidential candidate who are both pledging to work together to possibly try to combat illegal immigration, that might hold a little bit of weight with some of the voters in the state. But ultimately, it appears that that kind of optics that you are seeing is just B-roll for the campaign trail. 

RUDY KOSKI: A local university made some news this week regarding the presidential campaign. Texas State is going to hold one of the first, if not the first presidential debate. Brian, the polls say the debate will be a Biden-Trump rematch. But I still think that these early primaries may throw us a curveball.

BRIAN SMITH: A lot can actually happen between now and who gets the nomination. And the one thing people don't want to talk about is we have two candidates who are over 77. Polls don't vote. Voters do. And if Trump has some setbacks in the early primaries, one of the other challengers could come up as the real rival. And if somebody better does come along, the Republicans will drop Trump like a Patrick Mahomes pass on a Monday night game against the Eagles. 

Past This Week In Texas Politics

RUDY KOSKI: That's right. A lot of passes didn't drop for Mahomes. But you know what? Dak had a comeback with the Cowboys, so, you know. There you go. Yeah, there's the comeback kid some time. And even in politics. Well, talk about a comeback, kid. Ken Paxton just won't stay out of the news this week, the whistleblowers who once worked for Paxton asked the Travis County judge to compel Paxton and his aides to be deposed under oath in their civil trial against him. That came after a Burnet County judge decided not to help the attorney general block that move. Connie, were you surprised that the judge essentially just backed off out of that legal fight?

CONNIE SWINNEY: ] Well, Rudy, there's also a chance of that same judge in Burnet County will eventually punt the countersuit, by Paxton over to the Travis County judges, a hearing coming up in mid-December about that. But it appears that ultimately Paxton's attorneys may face an even bigger challenge if he does that, because then that means he'll go before a Democratic district judge instead of a Republican one. 

RUDY KOSKI: All right. Let's serve up some Turkey Day leftovers and wrap up this week with one word. My one word would be drumstick because I feel like that we've been beaten over the head with a drumstick with the politics this week. Connie, what's your word for the week? 

CONNIE SWINNEY: We've been talking turkey. So I say Gallinaceous ( a ground feeding domesticated bird). 

RUDY KOSKI: And Brian, what is your word for the week, wrap us up.

BRIAN SMITH: Well, Abbott loves to go down to the border and my word is Endorsement.

RUDY KOSKI: And that is another week in Texas politics.